Actor, comedian, and voice artist Gilbert Gottfried, renowned for voicing the character of Iago the parrot from Aladdin, died on Tuesday, due to a prolonged illness. He was 67.
Gottfried’s family announced his passing in a statement via Twitter, and wrote, “We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Gilbert Gottfried after a long illness. In addition to being the most iconic voice in comedy, Gilbert was a wonderful husband, brother, friend, and father to his two young children. Although today is a sad day for all of us, please keep laughing as loud as possible in Gilbert’s honour.”
Gottfried was born in February, 1955 in Brooklyn, to a Jewish family. He was the son of a hardware store-owner and a homemaker.
His stint as a stand-up comedian began at the age of 15, when he began conducting open-mic nights in New York City, and earned the title of ‘the comedian’s comedian’ in just a few years. After sharpening his craft for several years, Gottfried was hired as a cast member of NBC‘s late night comedy show Saturday Night Live in 1980. Although he thought that he would appear alongside Eddie Murphy, he was given little to do on the show.
But he soon gained recognition for his work on MTV, which had hired him for a series of improvised and hilarious promos for the newly formed channel. This led to several television appearances on The Cosby Show and Late Night with David Letterman.
Gottfried’s work in television soon led to roles in film, including that of business manager Sidney Bernstein in the hit sequel Beverly Hills Cop II. He also appeared in Problem Child, Problem Child II, Look Who’s Talking II and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, and was also the host of the very popular late night television series USA Up All Night. He also voiced characters like Digit LeBoid in Cyberchase, and Kraang Subprime in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
However, Gottfried came with his own baggage of controversies.
Less than a month after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Gottfried cracked a joke at a live event about flights making stops at skyscrapers. Moreover, in 2011, Aflac Inc, an American insurance company, dismissed Gottfried as the voice of ‘the duck’ in its commercials over his tweets, in which he had joked about the tsunami and earthquake in Japan.
Gottfried is survived by his wife Dara, sister Karen, 14-year-old daughter Lily and 12-year-old son Max.
Members from the industry paid their tributes to Gottfried via social media.
Comedian and show host Stephen Colbert wrote, on Twitter, “It was my honor to have met and interviewed and done bits with one of the greats. Rest In Peace, Gilbert Gottfried.”
“RIP Gilbert. Opening for Gilbert Gottfried at Carolines and Princeton Catch was one of the great thrills of my early stand up life. He could leave you gasping for breath, just indescribably unusually hilarious. Damn,” wrote comedian and host Jon Stewart.
Oscar-winning actor Marlee Maitlin, whose film CODA won the Oscar for Best Picture this year, wrote, “I am so sad to read about the passing of Gilbert Gottfried. Funny, politically incorrect but a softie on the inside. We met many times; he even pranked me on a plane, replacing my intepreter (they’re like twins). Sending love to Dara and his children. RIP.”